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Old 03-28-2012, 05:30 PM   #1
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Camping in Bear country

I was just wondering what pre-cautions one takes when ASing in bear country. I am especially concern about food in the AS. When I tent camp I use to put it high in a tree in a container but now I use the refrigerator etc.

Thanks for any advice.


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Old 03-28-2012, 05:36 PM   #2
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Hi John,

There was a thread about a year ago that talked about this. One person said that they saw a Griz rip right through an Airstream to get at some goodies.

I would think that if the food was in your fridge, you'd be cool provided you used your fans to air out the smells of dinner. But you definitely need to bear in mind "pun intended " the big brown furry guys outside.

I would think whatever was smelly in the fridge would be OK, but anything smelly that you'd normally put in a pantry you might want to put in the tree.

Personally, I bought a S&W .500 just for camping in bear country. I'd rather pay the $20K fine than get eaten. But, if you use your "tent camping" precautions, you'd probably be fine.

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Old 03-28-2012, 05:43 PM   #3
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What kind of bears are we talking about here? If I was in grizzly country I would put all the food in a tree or a bear question. I alway feel better carrying bear pepper spray as well.
In black bear country I wouldn't worry very much about it, my guess is most would be too timid to really try and go after a trailer (I could be wrong though). This is just my opinion. A dog will keep em away as well.
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Old 03-28-2012, 05:45 PM   #4
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Ohhh, don't get this group started on bears!

There really was a bear a couple of years ago that tore through the rear window of an Airstream trailer and seemed to be trying to get inside.

The woman (Carol), who was in bed at the time, was alerted by her two big labs, who then managed to scare the bear away and they escaped to her vehicle.

I believe her thought was the bear was after the peanut butter in the mouse traps.

The moral of the story: be very careful in bear country.

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Old 03-28-2012, 06:20 PM   #5
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A good friend of mine spent a summer wrangling dudes. He was employed by a high-end dude ranch in Colorado.

One service offered to guests was an overnight trail ride. The folks rode out to a “chuck wagon”, had dinner, and spent the night in tents.

His best story was one of a wealthy patriarch who had paid for his adult children and grandchildren to enjoy a week at the ranch, and take in an overnight.

After a day’s ride, and a loud and busy supper, stories around the campfire turned to the possibility of a bear attack. The kids were wound up and not settling down. The long day was wearing on the “old man”, and when asked how to prevent a bear attack, the sage old gent suggested the kids pour the juice left in the hot dog packages from dinner on themselves. To insure the bears past over their tent, of course.

You know, because bears don’t like hot dogs.

Sounds like a sound theory to me, faced with the same circumstances.


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Old 03-28-2012, 07:05 PM   #6
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Every public park or park system where there may be concerns about Bears will have information posted on their website. There will also be information available when you arrive - including the status of any current problems.

When camping in Bear country there is good reason to learn the rules and make sure you follow them - but there is no reason to be any more fearful than if you were crossing a busy city street at rush hour - in fact there is a lot less reason to be fearful .....

Enjoy your holiday.

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Old 03-28-2012, 07:20 PM   #7
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Bear spray is always a great line of defense, as is a firearm. Grizzly protection requires larger caliber rifles or shotguns; most handgun loads that will stop or even slow a grizzly have so much recoil that they are beyond the capability of most people. A 12 gauge shotgun with slugs is effective, relatively inexpensive, and more manageable than many options. I have a Marlin .45-70 guide rifle that is specifically for backup and defense when hunting in brown bear territory, but at higher cost.

If you choose to carry a firearm, you must be aware of laws in the various states in which you travel. You must also practice and become familiar with it...
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Old 03-28-2012, 07:36 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by JimGolden View Post
Personally, I bought a S&W .500 just for camping in bear country. I'd rather pay the $20K fine than get eaten. But, if you use your "tent camping" precautions, you'd probably be fine.
What $20K fine are you referring to? Most state parks, National Forests, and, since February 2010, National Parks, follow the governing state laws regarding firearms carry. So if the state that you are in allows open carry of a firearm, or if you have a concealed carry permit valid in that state, you're legal.
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Old 03-28-2012, 07:44 PM   #9
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We spend our summers in Alaska and have had black and grizzly bears in the campground nearly every summer. The best advice that I can offer is to cook outside as much as possible, store your food in your refrigerator (especially leftovers), take care with your pets and ALWAYS look outside before you start out the door. It is bad form to startle a bear that is hanging around your picnic table looking for scraps.
We did have a trailer broken into a couple of years ago. The door was open (screen door was closed) and the folks who lived there were not home. The black bear pretty well destroyed the kitchen and the screen door as well. He ate a loaf of bread that was on the counter.
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Old 03-28-2012, 08:03 PM   #10
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Black bears are a bit of a nuisance here, too. Before the village built a real trash transfer station on the other side of the valley, they'd always come through the park headed for the open area where the village kept dumpsters. We had one that kept on trying to get into the house, and they were always trying to get into our dumpster here at the park. Argh.

Since then, though, we haven't seen much of them here since the transfer station no longer offers victuals: The whole thing is enclosed. They are a problem further down in town where the restaurants have their dumpsters if the village isn't aggressive about getting the dumpsters emptied daily.

The biggest bear problem, though, comes from the flatlander guests in rental/weekend properties in town who evidently think it's "neat" to feed the bears or to leave their hummingbird feeders out overnight. Duh!

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Old 03-29-2012, 10:14 AM   #11
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ways to avoid wild animal predation of your person

There are several good ways to avoid predation. First dont leave food around. The fridge is probably good enough, or airtight coolers inside the truck. If nervous, in the tree is best. A bear in yellowstone learned how to break into cars and taught other bears how to jump up and down on teh roof to pop the doors. So they can get in. Keep the garbage away, and if possible, put it in the garbage cans nightly. Dont burn food or food remnants in the campfire. A dog or even a sufficiently aggressive housecat will usually run a bear off. Unless you are in Alaska, i doubt you will encounter a grizzly. If you are thinking firearm, a shotgun with buckshot or a slug.. the idea is to cripple it so you can outrun it. In that vein, if you are at a large campground, avoid messy neighbors... but hope there is one at the far end of the campground to attract hungry bears. Or you can do the following: The dog has a large hook on its collar. they both works ok for bears too.

Final way: have a camping buddy you can outrun.
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Old 03-29-2012, 11:07 AM   #12
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Bear Country, USA

Here we go. Rattle snakes climbing up the AS stairs to bite intruders and Grizz that are roaming the back country to attack food stashes, refrigerators and people who are carrying an extra twenty pounds...

Yellowstone Park is a great place to be weary of bear. Glacial National Park is a great place to be weary of bear. Alaska is a great place to be weary of bear. Popular back country pack trails at National Parks are a great place to be weary of bear. Canada is a great place to be... looking for bear. Bear know where the easy pickings are to be found. Usually where there are tourists who do not police the area around the campsite, leaving food, trash and opportunity. Don't go over to see the cute bear cub stumbling around the thickets... or hugging a tree twenty feet from the ground... Mamma bear is near. Much like the cartoon character, Yogi Bear, these "tourist tame bear" are not afraid of people... those are the bear that are the biggest problem. Yes, I understand, I do not work the back country as a Bear Researcher... obviously you hear very little about one of those people getting attacked by any kind of bear. Maybe it is the little things that make a difference.

The millions of campers out each year return home without incident. Their cameras loaded for... bear. None to be found. Just police the camp site, remove your food scrap trash from the AS as often as possible, your vehicle is not a bear safe trash can and pick up around the camp site. An injured or sick bear is more of a risk than a 1200 pounder who is healthy. Many areas have bear hunting season and that is enough to restrain a bear from the scent of Man and Hot Dogs after being shot at a few times.

We have encountered black/brown bear in New Mexico, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho without incident. And some are big ones... They are not fond of a dog that looks menacing... or lots of noise coming out of the trailer. A bear will return most likely in the darkest hours of the evening.

Food up in a tree...? These guys are great tree climbers. Food hidden in the trailer... they can smell the BBQ grill miles down wind. Just be aware you are in bear country, keep alert to any notices by the Forest Service that bear have been spotted in the area and lay back to enjoy your trip. You have more risk at the "safe" campgrounds where a bear knows where a camper left his picnic supplies out on the table over night... and you happen to be the bear alert camper at the wrong place.

If you really want a scare. Watch the movie made some decades back about an oversized Grizz mauling and eating hikers in the back country. They ended up killing it with a bazooka or something like that. It had the same effect as Jaws and swimming in the ocean.

One last, I promise, story. We lived in a community of 1200 homes along the Front Range of Colorado, west of Denver. Friends went fishing in Canada and gave us some wonderful Salmon filets. We grilled them outside one evening and must have alerted every brown bear in the county to check it out... Bear are not quiet when they arrive or when they leave. A bear can jump up a tiered six foot retaining wall with all its fat, rolling back and forth as it goes off into the forest. Look at stubs of branches along a trail for "bear hair" as they like to scratch their itches on these stubs they can get to... Barb wire fences... Be alert, smart about bear and they will avoid you more than you will want to avoid them.
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Old 03-29-2012, 12:53 PM   #13
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What if you paint a HUGH bear on the side of your Airstream to scare the bear. A 50cal might do the trick.

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Old 03-29-2012, 12:57 PM   #14
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Lots of good comments here.
Should you be visiting a national park, say Grand Teton or Yellowstone, you'll get plenty of literature and enforcement of their bear policy. They will fine you at the drop of a hat for violations.
Having said that; common sense first but barring that, no BBQ grilles left outside, put them in the truck. Absolutely no coolers with or without food left outdoors, put them in the truck. Clean up constantly outdoors. When hiking, make noise by talking or wearing bells, anything not to surprise a Grizz or black bear with cubs. Keep your pets managed at all times if allowed at all in the area you visit. Carry spray specifically intended to repell bears. The little personal defense canisters won't cut it. Purchase the large canisters with large nozzles that spray a heavy stream that won't be affected by a light breeze. Test fire them. The ones you purchase will come in a holster you can carry on your belt or pack webbing for quick access. We've carried these all through bear country while fly fishing the skinny waters in back country. Did I mention, make noise while hiking? Should you be proficient with firearms and should it be legal, by all means carry and if you're proficient you'll know just what to carry. If you have no clue, don't just piss off a bear by stinging him. Be aware by inquiring of the locals before you get into bear country. You can learn a wealth of current information from just beginning a conversation with the locals. A couple of summers back it was definitely the year of the Grizz in Yellowstone and we saw them everywhere yet we had no problems. Did I mention, make noise while hiking? Have fun and be bear aware.
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Old 03-29-2012, 02:20 PM   #15
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They say in Yellowstone to wear bells and carry a can of bear spray... In order to determine if a bear is in the area, you should know how to recognize bear feces.. it smells like pepper and has little bells in it....
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Old 03-29-2012, 03:25 PM   #16
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Our second camping trip in the AS was to the Great Smokey Mountains. At check-in the host cautioned that a bear cub had been spotted inside the campground on regular basis over the last several weeks. On the third morning we talked with a camper who had spotted the cub the night before. During the trip we rode bicycles on the Cades Cove Loop road. The photo below is of the mama bear and one of her three cubs.
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Remember its not the destination, but rather the journey.... its what's in the middle that matters the most!
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Old 03-29-2012, 09:52 PM   #17
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Bear Scat should be a clue...

When hiking the forest trails here in the Western USA, it is not a bad idea to know what bear scat looks like. Scat is a replacement word for other words with the same meaning, but considered vulgar... like crap or turd. But, to go on.

Bears mark their territory and trails. We counted 19 "piles of scat" on one trail on a Forest trail we hiked daily on the Colorado Front Range one year. This was on the trail. Obviously a bear was not happy with us and our two blue heelers using "his" trail. Scat of a bear looks like a pudding with, here at least, many crushed acorns from the scrub oak that is so common at 6,500 to, lets say 8,500 feet elevation in the Fall. The bigger the scat, I must judge it from a "larger bear". We do not have Grizz this far south, so it is brown/black/auburn colored bears here.

The big joke out west is, as Eric described in an earlier message and I have a slight variation, that is suppose to be funny, so remember I am making light of hiking in the back country with Bear, Bears or Grizz...

Do you know the difference between Black Bear scat and Grizzly Bear scat?

Well... black bear scat looks like pudding with many crushed shells of acorns mixed within. Sometimes wild plum seeds, when in season and a number of seeds from other local fruits that grow on bushes in their habitat. Huckleberry, blue berry and other berries are also favorites.

Grizzly Bear is much like the Black Bear scat, but also contains whistles and bells. That is the defining difference in our scat course... keep your eyes to the ground and the softer the scat, the closer the bear. The last time I was in close proximity to a black bear, I recall a smell that I just cannot describe. So if you also smell something out of the ordinary, just think bear and be careful.
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Old 03-29-2012, 10:14 PM   #18
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I can tell what fruit is in season around here, purple bear poop means plums, white bear poop means apples. Usually it can look a lot like calf poop. It's a safer year if we have no apples. The back yard gets to looking like a calf pen at times in the fall. They like cat food as much as the raccoons and skunks, only have a little damage to the back porch wall where a bear came in for the cat food.
As much as I like bacon, I would not reccomend anyone taking bacon camping in bear country, I don't know how you would keep the bears from getting to it.
The Silver Dragon came with a bear claw mark in the refrig door, they learned to open the trailer door up at Truckee where I bought the trailer. So far I've had no trouble in the trailer with no food in it and have dishes of PineSol out in the trailer.
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Old 03-29-2012, 10:18 PM   #19
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Why is it always about guns on this forum? Guns... get a big one and all your problems are solved.

Being bear aware is about reducing attractants... unless you are back-country camping, there isn't a lot you can do in a campground other than cleaning up your outside garbage.

If you are in a wilderness setting known for bears, I'd cook away from the RV, store your food in bear cache containers, and change into fresh cloths after cooking.

I'm not a believer in firearms for close-encounters with animals. Bear spray can be much more effective, is lighter, and doesn't make you look like Rambo when other people are trying to enjoy the day without your bear-paranoia scaring the crap out of everyone.

Don't pack your pistol when you are coming to Canada or transiting to Alaska... they aren't allowed.

Anyway... I live in a wilderness town where the summer fun is bear watching. 4 black bears and 3 grizzlies (mom & 2 cubs) called town home last year. 2 of the black bears were responsive to deterrents and kept their respect for people, 2 had to be destroyed because some people thought keeping chickens was more important than reducing attractants.

I was very happy that the grizzlies stayed on the edge of town... as shooting a mom & 2 cubs would be bad...
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Old 03-30-2012, 10:43 AM   #20
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all joking aside, most bears are NOT to be feared. only if baby bear is involved. Ive had quite a few bear encounters of the close kind, I have never had to use bear spray or a gun. They are to be respected however, and their personal space avoided. I used to watch an old sow in durango go shopping in my dumpster on Highway 160. She would dive in, get something tasty, and neatly place it next to the dumpster and then dive in again. Whenever a car came by she would pop her head out and watch, then go back to swimming in the garbage. One time i did not know she was there and i went down to the dumpster.. I am not sure who was more startled. When i was done she came back to inspect the offerings. She would then pack up her treasures and make for the hills.

The key is knowing you are in THEIR territory and respecting their limits. Unlike people bears are sensible animals. They will behave in predictable ways and with better manners than many humans. Many people forget this basic fact and get into trouble. I.E. People gored by Bison when trying to get a picture with them...

I would like to agree with Friday's post but for a different reason. Firearms are a tool, and may have appropriate application in a wild animal encounter. However, I recommend bear spray because most people are not familiar enough with firearms to effectively use them in a life threatening situation. Pistols are rarely powerful enough and few people are skilled enough for them to be useful. Bear Spray does not need to be accurate to deter. It also works on people! A responsible gun owner will never scare people by being a bear-paranoid "rambo". We can leave that to people with mullets and confederate flags whos sister is also their mother... lol

Also, if going to canada, remember to check your vehicles for anything else that would cause a bored border guard to check your vehicle. And on teh way back dont forget the whiskey and to smuggle a good toilet into the US! lol

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